What Makes a Great Fintech Leader?

Not only is it possible to learn how to lead in fintech, but it is also essential. Following this logic can bring into play long-lived debates about: Are leaders born or made?

Date: 11 November 2021
Authors: Shân M. Millie & Kate Bohn

Formal Leadership education (ie. MBAs, Executive Education short-courses) remains a global growth industry, and the requirement to make Leadership a key capability for fintech as a sector, if anything, is gaining more momentum:

  • the Kalifa Review highlighted Skills as a key driver for the continued success of the UK’s existing ‘competitive edge’, stating: ‘… ensuring that Fintech has the right supply of domestic and international talent and the means to train and upskill our current and future workforce’.
    And although the Review’s focus was (our words) ‘born as fintech’ new and scaling firms, it recognised that ANY business using technology in financial services is, by definition, a fintech.
  • When we asked the FinTech Magazine community recently how important management education was, 89% of fintech professionals told us that consistent professional development plays a key part in their current job role*.

So, everyone agrees that teaching and learning about Fintech Leadership is crucial. And not only is it possible to learn how to lead in fintech, but it is also essential. Following this logic can bring into play long-lived debates about:

Are leaders born or made?

We think anyone can be a leader, although some have a harder road than others. But is there only ONE, the optimum definition of Leadership for fintech? You won’t be surprised to hear that we don’t subscribe to that idea either!

What’s interesting for an entire sector dedicated to disrupting the status quo, is how narratives on Fintech Leadership tend to travel along exactly the same tram-rails as every other sector. They are tapping into the same models, paradigms, and arguments that have been a staple in magazines, conferences, courses, and consultancy toolkits for decades.

What does Fintech Leadership mean?

Our research, and what we continue to learn in our different but overlapping work, tell us that the extraordinary combination of circumstances we find ourselves living through in the 2020s requires a fundamental re-set – or maybe, a concerted fresh articulation? – of what Fintech Leadership means NOW.

We’re regularly seeing and hearing diverse stakeholders in the ecosystem questioning old ‘truths’. And almost unquestioning Trust in Big Tech, and tech in general. Live controversies on Facial Recognition deployment, regulator focus on Data Privacy and Informed Consent, Government concerns about social harms from an unregulated and unaccountable Social Media industry – these and many issues will continue to dominate conversations outside the firm for the foreseeable future.

Confident assertions that fintech is a powerful force for Financial Inclusion and Resilience (through greater accessibility, improved customer outcomes and lower costs) have turned into exhortations for the sector to live up to this promise.

Many firms are actively working out what this means in practice, for their people, business models, investors and customers:

  • Are our current and future Fintech Leaders sufficiently well-prepared for this new context, re-shaping before their eyes, and under their feet?
  • If the initial fascination with technologies is giving way to a new focus on the role of the human in Fintech Leadership, what does this mean for individuals looking to re-skill, upskill and (maybe) de-skill?
  • Where are the exemplars of ‘Fit-For-Now’ Fintech Leadership?
We’d love your views!

As a starting point, please respond to this very short survey hosted by FINTECH Circle that asks one very important question: what makes a great Fintech Leader? And why? We’ll report back on what the global FINTECH Circle community has to say – including who tops the poll.

Complete the survey now

*Survey of FinTech Magazine digital community, October 2021. Carried out as part of Shân & Kate’s sessions as speakers at FinTech & InsurTech Live, 12 October 2021. This audience reflects The FinTech Magazine’s broad mix of professionals working in established and new firms.

About the authors

Shân M. Millie, Bright Blue Hare, GreenKite & EDII
Focused on shaping Tech-enabled value generation in Insurance & FS, Shân empowers both corporate intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs via her consultancy, Bright Blue Hare, and as Innovation & Customer Lead for Delegated Authority specialists, GreenKite Associates. Her current portfolio also comprises FinTech Delivery Panel (FDP) Board member for InsurTech; coChair of FDP Finclusion 2021; and FinTech Advisor for the Cabinet Office-sponsored Access to Insurance initiative. A published author (inc. The AI Book, Wiley 2020), and sought-after coach and voice of authority, Shân is a Board Advisor for biodiversity charity Heal Rewilding, and Coaching Director for EDII, the new source of innovation and education for regulated markets.

Kate Bohn, Transformational Leader & Fintech Evangelist, formerly Incubator & Accelerator Lead, Lloyds Banking Group
A transformational leader with 20+ years in Financial Services, Kate has delivered net-positive impacts across a broad range of roles in corporations from global software houses to retail/investment banking institutions in the UK, Europe and the US. Kate is well known across the Fintech landscape and some of her recent FS Industry recognitions include: 

2021 – Most Influential Women in UK Tech, longlist (ComputerWeekly.com), 40 Digital Women to watch (Digital Women Awards); 
2020 – Woman in Technology (Banking Tech Awards Winner), 100 Women in Fintech (100WFintech), Women in Fintech Powerlist (Innovate Finance); 
2019 – Top 10 Women in Fintech & Banking (Fintech Futures), Advocate of the Year (Women in Finance, finalist)